By Missoula Current

Heavy equipment began pulling down the Missoula Mercantile on Tuesday, marking the official end of the downtown building that dates back to 1880s.

It also prompted a steady stream of spectators and photographers looking to chronicle the end of the historic structure, which has long anchored the corner of Higgins Avenue and Front Street.

Over the past few months, crews with Home ReSource deconstructed the Mercantile's interior, salvaging portions for reuse in a planned Marriott hotel, and for display in an interior mews.

That work wrapped up last week, setting the stage for demolition to begin this week. Heavy equipment began pulling down the western section of the building on Tuesday, working slowly eastward.

Under an agreement signed with the city, the developer – HomeBase Montana – agreed to leave the pharmacy portion of the Mercantile standing. It emerged independently on Tuesday as the structure around it was reduced to rubble.

Walls several bricks thick collapsed as the backhoe took bites from the walls. Pedestrians were diverted to the opposite side of the street for most of the day.

The property's developer has contracted with L. Keeley Construction out of St. Louis to oversee eventual construction of a $35 million Residence Inn by Marriott. The new hotel, slated for construction later this year, will include ground floor retail and dining with about 150 rooms on five floors.